Customer Preferences For Michigan Apples: A Case Example Of A Market Research Program For A Commodity Industry
A series of market-research studies on Michigan apples are discussed in this paper. They provide a case example of a continuing program of market research to aid this industry. These include studies on changing preferences, needs, perceptions, practices and buying behavior for major customer segments of this industry, including consumers and grocery retailers, as well as mid-chain customer segments such as shippers and processors. While this market research program includes several component studies, the overall integration of the information from the various component studies is especially important for the development of the industry's marketing strategies. The component studies which comprise the overall market research program to date include the following interrelated phases: 1. An initial survey of apple shippers as key mid-chain firms - emphasizing overview information on customer needs and preferences as well as priorities for needed market research information. 2. A consumer focus group study. 3. A large-sample consumer telephone survey on consumer preferences, behavior and attitudes. 4. Consumer taste tests emphasizing fruit firmness and taste. 5. Consumer visual test regarding purchase preferences for fruit size and color. 6. A survey of consumers using an in-store taste and sampling program. 7. A follow-up survey of shippers that concentrated on apple varieties preferred for current and future markets. 8. A similar survey of apple processors on apple varieties preferred for processed apple markets. 9. A survey of grocery trade customers on their needs and preferences for fresh apples. 10. Integrative analyses comparing and contrasting preference information obtained from the studies listed in 1-9. The market research was done as part of broad-scope industry efforts to analyze, target and develop major strategic directions intended to position the industry for high performance and success in the future. These identified strategic directions have the goal of improving the industry's overall performance, including effectively meeting the needs of their consumer and trade customers in order to improve industry's competitiveness and economic viability. The specific types of information, priority questions and customer targets for each of the component market-research studies were developed in close cooperation with industry leaders and major industry organizations such as the industry's generic promotional commission. The industry has used the information from these market-research studies to develop their evolving strategies to most effectively serve their customer needs and hence to compete in the changing markets for their industry.
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